NASA Wants To Develop A 3D Pizza Printer

NASA is getting to work on funding research that they hope will lead to a 3D printer capable of creating food fit for human consumption:

NASA has doled out a research grant to develop a prototype 3D printer for food, so astronauts may one day enjoy 3D-printed pizza on Mars.

Anjan Contractor, a senior mechanical engineer at Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC), based in Austin, Texas, received a $125,000 grant from the space agency to build a prototype of his food synthesizer, as was first reported by Quartz.

NASA hopes the technology may one day be used to feed astronauts on longer space missions, such as the roughly 520 days required for a manned flight to Mars. Manned missions to destinations deeper in the solar system would require food that can last an even longer amount of time.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” Contractor told Quartz. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”

Dividing the various components of food in powder cartridges would theoretically enable users to mix them together, like the ingredients in normal recipes, to create a diverse array of nutritious meals.

To prove his idea works, Contractor printed chocolate. Now, he’s aiming to build a more advanced prototype to print a pizza, according to Quartz.

The system will start by “printing” a sheet of dough, followed by a layer of tomato “sauce,” which will consist of the powder mixed with water and oil. Instead of traditional toppings, the 3D-printed pizza will be finished off with a layer of protein, which can be derived from animals, milk or plants, Contractor told Quartz.

While NASA sees applications for 3D printers on future manned space missions, Contractor said his food synthesizer could also be an effective way of addressing the problem of food shortages from rapid population growth.

The important question, of course, is whether this will be 3D New York Style pizza, or 3D Chicago Style pizza.

H/T: Ed Morrissey

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. walt moffett says:

    getting closer to the Jetson’s food pills.

  2. john personna says:

    I think 3d printing technology is more developed than “food powders.” I mean sure, give the guy a few bucks to see if he can create a set of powders that produce a reasonable product … but you taste it first, will you?

  3. DC Loser says:

    The Russians are looking for 3D printed borscht, and the Chinese wantt 3D Kung Pao Chicken.

  4. tps says:

    @walt moffett: More like “Star Trek” style food replicators.

  5. john personna says:

    @DC Loser:

    Heh, and what will the grilled cheese sandwich made after those two actually taste like?

  6. JWH says:

    Does it make Tea, Earl Gray, Hot? Or does it produce a beverage that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea?

  7. liberal capitalist says:

    @JWH:

    Or does it produce a beverage that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea?

    Well… that would be inline with much of the food produced today… right?

    After all, what is in your “green tea” ?

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/whats-in-your-green-tea/

    “…shows that green tea can vary widely from one cup to the next. Some bottled varieties appear to be little more than sugar water, containing little of the antioxidants that have given the beverage its good name. And some green tea leaves, particularly those from China, are contaminated with lead, though the metal does not appear to leach out during the brewing process.”

    Here is where it gets interesting… If a molecular “food replicator” 3D printer technology can make a McDonalds Cheeseburger, already wrapped in paper…

    You can kiss service industry jobs buh-bye.

  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @JWH: Bonus points for cross-franchise geekery.

  9. Brett says:

    It’s interesting stuff, and I’m glad it’s getting seed money for research. But it seems like a highly overcomplicated way to feed astronauts, versus more conventional facilities, stored food, and food grown on site in enclosed greenhouses. If the printer breaks down, you’re stuck with a bunch of elements of food that you’ll have to bake anyways.

    I’m happy to get funding for all kinds of research under “space” auspices, though.

  10. Franklin says:

    The important question, of course, is whether this will be 3D New York Style pizza, or 3D Chicago Style pizza.

    I think a thin crust would lend itself better. Which is just as well, since deep dish is disgusting.

  11. john personna says:

    @Franklin:

    We’ve had a few authentic wood fired joints open up in my town. You know, where they build a fire in a clay oven and then use latent heat at ~900F to cook the pizza. It rocks so much. I can do similar with my Big Green Egg … but I’ve got to admit not quite as well as these new guys.

    Space pizza probably does not use an oak fire.

  12. Franklin says:

    @john personna: Hmm, I had never heard of that Big Green Egg … I take it that it works pretty well? (I’m sort of in the market for a new grill.) I do agree on the wood fired pizzas … pretty yummy.